I'm a newbie here. I had extreme pain in my upper back while on an extended stay in Turkey, when symptoms included numbness in the tip of left index finger, I decided it was time to see a doctor. The Neurologist there did a physical exam in which he noted that among my other symptoms, I had extreme weakness in my left tricep. He diagnosed my condition as a herniated disc between C6-C7, which was confirmed on MRI taken that same day. I also have a much smaller herniation at C5-C6. He recommended that I see a neurosurgeon right away, advice that I ignored for about a month. After a month, the extreme pain had lessened somewhat and was manageable with 550 mg of Naproxen per day, but I went to see a respected head of physical therapy there in Turkey, after noting the tricep weakness and reviewing my MRI he said I need surgery and couldn't understand what I was waiting for. At that point I returned to the U.S. assuming I would have surgery here.
The first doctor I saw, an orthopedic surgeon who noted that much of my pain had eased, ranging from 0-4 and that the numbness in my index fingertip had almost completely disappeared and he recommended waiting to see if I continue to improve. This appointment was roughly 8 weeks since I had had peak pain 8-9. I also had another MRI done here in the States and it showed no change in the 8 week interval. I went to a neurosurgeon for a second opinion and he said there was no doubt in his mind that I needed surgery. In addition, I have reached out to friends and family connections, sharing my MRI results. One friend of a friend, a retired neurosurgeon, said I needed surgery and he thought no neurosurgeon in the country would disagree. Two other Orthopedic surgeon friends of family have independently said they would not recommend surgery unless symptoms worsened to include drop foot or loss of bladder control. The line in opinion seems to be between Neurosurgeons and Orthopedic surgeons.
I have opted to wait and have just started physical therapy and although I wouldn't trade my current relatively mild symptoms for the extreme pain I had before, my anxiety level is through the roof. Every little twinge I feel in legs or feet, is magnified in my imagination into paralysis below the waist. Lately , I have started physical therapy, including neck traction, and I have been feeling some minor pins and needles in my feet and calf muscles on a sporadic basis. The orthopedic surgeon suggested this was safe as long as they weren't prolonged, I have another appt. with him on the 24th of this month.
The tingling goes away when I walk and I am hoping it is just a function spending too much time stretched out on the couch.
I guess my questions are:
1) Who do you listen to when expert opinion is so divided?
2) Should I stop doing neck traction in physical therapy? I have heard this can be dangerous for severe herniations, although it was prescribed by the orthopedic surgeon.
3) How dangerous is it to put off surgery? The MRI shows that the herniation has closed the path for the spinal cord down to 7.5 mm at it's narrowest point.
Thank you for any advice you may have.